College Football Picks: Week 13 Predictions for Every Game
Iron Bowl. Apple Cup. Egg Bowl. War on I-4. The Civil War. The Big Game.
It doesn't get much better than college football's rivalry week, especially when most of those rivalries have significant College Football Playoff implications.
What's funny is that people are excited about the biggest week of the regular season while simultaneously acting like they know what's going to happen by talking about things such as 11-1 Clemson vs. 11-0 Miami in the ACC championship or a two-loss Ohio State potentially winning the Big Ten.
Heads up, people: There's still one major, highly entertaining hurdle standing between us and conference championship week.
That said, we've got predictions for every game on this Thanksgiving weekend buffet of football. (Except for the three Tuesday night #MACtion games. This piece takes too long to research and write to fit them in.)
Week 12 Record: 46-14 outright; 26-27-1 against the spread
Year-to-Date: 210-81 outright; 139-136-10 against the spread
Week 12 Record (Top 25 Games): 22-1 outright; 12-8 against the spread
Year-to-Date (Top 25 Games): 88-13 outright; 55-37-6 against the spread
Top Early Saturday Games
Ohio State (9-2) at Michigan (8-3), Noon ET
Last Meeting: Ohio State beat Michigan 30-27 last November
There's always a good chance things get weird in a rivalry game, but statistically speaking, Ohio State should win by a landslide.
The Buckeyes defense (4.42 yards per play; 291.5 per game) is just as good as Michigan's (4.37 yards per play; 262.12 per game). Take out OSU's nonconference game against the offensive juggernaut known as Oklahoma, and it's actually better. But on offense, these teams couldn't be much more night and day—especially if Brandon Peters is unable to play for the Wolverines and they have to roll with John O'Korn at QB. Michigan will stop Ohio State enough times to keep it relatively interesting, but I just can't see the Wolverines scoring more than twice on offense.
Prediction: Ohio State 35, Michigan 10
Georgia (10-1) at Georgia Tech (5-5), Noon ET
Last Meeting: Georgia Tech beat Georgia 28-27 last November
Is this the year Georgia finally figures out how to stop the triple-option? Everyone has just been gift-wrapping this win for the Bulldogs and talking about them entering the SEC championship with an 11-1 record. However, Georgia Tech has rushed for at least 194 yards in 10 consecutive games against Georgia, including three games with at least 399 yards. Yes, Georgia's rush defense is great this year, but this is also one of GT's most potent rushing attacks of the past decade. Georgia ultimately gets the win, but it's not going to be pretty.
Prediction: Georgia 31, Georgia Tech 27
Louisville (7-4) at Kentucky (7-4), Noon ET
Last Meeting: Kentucky beat Louisville 41-38 last November
Speaking of defenses repeatedly struggling with an opposing offensive weapon, Lamar Jackson rushed for at least 171 yards and two touchdowns in each of his previous games against Kentucky. He averaged 384.0 total yards and 3.5 touchdowns after also accounting for his passes, and he's a better passer this year. And, let's be honest—Kentucky isn't that good. The Wildcats have only played two games this season against FPI Top 30 teams, losing those by a combined score of 87-20. Louisville's FPI rank is 22.
Prediction: Louisville 41, Kentucky 28
Florida State (4-6) at Florida (4-6), Noon ET
Last Meeting: Florida State beat Florida 31-13 last November
The narrative is going to be about how unexpectedly bad these teams have been this season, but are we sure Florida State is bad? Losses to NC State, Miami and Louisville were by a combined margin of 13 points. The Seminoles gave Alabama a good fight in the season opener. And with 6:36 remaining in the fourth quarter at Clemson, they were down by just three with the ball in Tigers territory. Yes, the loss to Boston College was hideous, but this could easily be an 8-2 team vying for an ACC title.
That is not the case with Florida, which never figured out how to do anything on offense and ranks 88th nationally in terms of yards allowed per play on defense. Not only does Florida State win this game, but it makes a mockery of the Gators.
Prediction: Florida State 38, Florida 14
Other Early Saturday Games
Tulane (5-6) at SMU (6-5), Noon ET
Last Meeting: SMU beat Tulane 35-31 last October
SMU's defense hasn't been good at any point this season, but it has been downright awful the past three weeks, allowing 612.7 yards per game and 8.24 yards per play against UCF, Navy and Memphis. To be fair, those are three of the best offenses in the AAC, but it's a reminder that you shouldn't expect the Mustangs to shut down Tulane's potent rushing attack. But you probably should expect SMU's offense to do more than enough to make up for it.
Prediction: SMU 49, Tulane 38
East Carolina (3-8) at Memphis (9-1), Noon ET
Last Meeting: East Carolina beat Memphis 41-7 in 2012
Memphis ranks No. 6 in the nation in total yards per game, while East Carolina ranks 128th in total yards allowed per game. ECU's offense has been respectable lately, including a 48-20 win over Cincinnati last week. However, the Pirates would need to score 60 to make up for what Memphis is going to do to their defense. There's still a chance Anthony Miller will lead the nation in receiving yards per game, so expect him to go off in this one.
Prediction: Memphis 59, East Carolina 31
Kansas (1-10) at Oklahoma State (8-3), Noon ET
Last Meeting: Oklahoma State beat Kansas 44-20 last October
This is going to be so ugly. Oklahoma State has 507 more passing yards than Kansas has total yards this season, and the Jayhawks are undeniably the worse defensive team. The only part of this game worth watching is the opening coin flip to see if the Kansas captains decide to shake Mason Rudolph's hand or snub him as they did Baker Mayfield.
Prediction: Oklahoma State 54, Kansas 3
Connecticut (3-8) at Cincinnati (3-8), Noon ET
Last Meeting: Connecticut beat Cincinnati 20-9 last October
Each of these teams has given up at least 31 points in each of its eight losses. It's just a question of which team starts to snowball out of control first. Considering Connecticut has lost its last four games by a combined margin of 105 points, the smart money is on the Huskies fitting that description.
Prediction: Cincinnati 34, Connecticut 26
Indiana (5-6) at Purdue (5-6), Noon ET
Last Meeting: Indiana beat Purdue 26-24 last November
Early in the season, we were marveling at Jeff Brohm's fast work with Purdue's offense, but the real story with the Boilermakers has been their defense. Would you believe Purdue has held seven consecutive opponents to 25 points or fewer, including three games allowing fewer than 260 total yards? This team gave up 38.3 points per game last year. That improvement proves to be the difference, pushing Purdue into a bowl game.
Prediction: Purdue 28, Indiana 20
Boston College (6-5) at Syracuse (4-7), 12:20 p.m. ET
Last Meeting: Syracuse beat Boston College 28-20 last October
Here's a fun fact: In this entire season, there have only been five instances of a team amassing at least 725 total yards on offense. Syracuse has been on the "defensive" side of one of those games in each of the past two weeks, getting blown out by Wake Forest and Louisville. Meanwhile, Boston College has rushed for at least 236 yards in five straight games. Expect another big day from AJ Dillon.
Prediction: Boston College 37, Syracuse 28
Duke (5-6) at Wake Forest (7-4), 12:30 p.m. ET
Last Meeting: Wake Forest beat Duke 24-14 last September
Wake Forest has had a lot of trouble slowing down opposing rushing attacks, allowing at least 175 yards in six straight games. And Duke's offense finally came out of hibernation this past weekend with 319 rushing yards in a 43-20 win over Georgia Tech. Meanwhile, Wake Forest's offense came back to earth last week after three straight games with at least 587 total yards, and Duke hasn't given up more than 31 in a game all season. The Blue Devils will become bowl-eligible in possibly the biggest upset of the week.
Prediction: Duke 32, Wake Forest 27
UTEP (0-11) at UAB (7-4), 1 p.m. ET
Last Meeting: UAB beat UTEP 21-6 in 2010
UTEP has already locked up the title of "Worst FBS team in 2017." Could the Miners also be the worst team of the past decade? They have nearly given up twice as many yards (5,025) as they have gained (2,558), and they have lost all but one game by at least a 14-point margin and haven't yet scored more than 21 points in a game. It's kind of ironic UAB—the team most expected to be the worst in FBS this season—will get to eight wins by handing UTEP one final blowout.
Prediction: UAB 38, UTEP 14
North Texas (8-3) at Rice (1-10), 1 p.m. ET
Last Meeting: North Texas beat Rice 42-35 last September
Want to know why Conference USA may end up with 10 bowl-eligible teams? It's because of UTEP, Rice and Charlotte combining to go 1-30 this season in games not played against each other. Rice is the least awful of that trio, as the Owls have been pretty solid in the running game, rushing for at least 236 yards in each of their last four games. But their defense is terrible, and that's going to result in a North Texas rout.
Prediction: North Texas 45, Rice 19
Cream of the Midafternoon Crop
Alabama (11-0) at Auburn (9-2), 3:30 p.m. ET
Last Meeting: Alabama beat Auburn 30-12 last November
This is hands-down the best game of the day, and it will result in a College Football Playoff-muddling upset. These teams are similar on offense, but Alabama's season-long numbers on defense are better. However, the Crimson Tide's backfield penetration hasn't been quite the same the past few weeks without LB Shaun Dion Hamilton, and Auburn could win the battle in the trenches—as it did in a 40-17 victory over Georgia.
Also worth noting: Two of Alabama's previous three road games—at Texas A&M and Mississippi State—were decided by one-possession margins. And Auburn is a good deal better than either of those teams. It's probably going to end up being decided by some fluky turnover in the final six minutes (or seconds), but give me the Tigers in one of the Iron Bowl's all-time classics.
Prediction: Auburn 35, Alabama 31
Boise State (9-2) at Fresno State (8-3), 3:30 p.m. ET
Last Meeting: Boise State beat Fresno State in 2014 MWC Championship
This is the first of two back-to-back games between these teams, as they've each already clinched their spots in next week's Mountain West Championship. Both should be great games between nearly identical teams. On offense, Boise State averages 5.89 yards per play; Fresno averages 5.88. On defense, the Broncos allow 4.75 yards per play; the Bulldogs allow 4.74.
But Boise State's offense has been sizzling lately, with Brett Rypien averaging 294.8 passing yards per game with 12 touchdowns against one interception in his last four. The Broncos win this one, but we'll see if they can get the double dip.
Prediction: Boise State 28, Fresno State 25
Wisconsin (11-0) at Minnesota (5-6), 3:30 p.m. ET
Last Meeting: Wisconsin beat Minnesota 31-17 last November
There's been so much time spent discussing Wisconsin's strength of schedule (or lack thereof) that the strength of this Badgers defense has been woefully neglected. It's just 2.3 total yards per game behind Alabama for first in the nation. Wisconsin does have the best rushing defense, allowing 79.4 yards per game—including holding Michigan's deadly rushing assault to just 58 yards last week. Meanwhile, Minnesota ranks 120th nationally in yards per game on offense and just got shut out by Northwestern.
Prediction: Wisconsin 38, Minnesota 7
Penn State (9-2) at Maryland (4-7), 3:30 p.m. ET
Last Meeting: Penn State beat Maryland 38-14 last October
If you can't remember the last time Maryland's offense showed up against a competent opponent, join the club. The Terrapins scored just seven points last week in a snowy mess against Michigan State, 10 the previous week against Michigan, 13 against Wisconsin, 14 against Ohio State and 10 against UCF. They lost four of those games by at least a 25-point margin. And Penn State just dropped 56 on Nebraska.
Prediction: Penn State 48, Maryland 13
West Virginia (7-4) at Oklahoma (10-1), 3:45 p.m. ET
Last Meeting: Oklahoma beat West Virginia 56-28 last November
Baker Mayfield won't start this game, but he will play. That means he'll probably be on the field no later than the second drive, because you're out of your mind if you think Lincoln Riley is going to sacrifice a trip to the playoff to send a message against trash talk. And against a better-than-average West Virginia secondary, this isn't the type of game where Oklahoma wins by 30 points while Mayfield plays just three quarters.
Prediction: Oklahoma 35, West Virginia 27
Arizona (7-4) at Arizona State (6-5), 4:30 p.m. ET
Last Meeting: Arizona beat Arizona State 56-35 last November
As it turns out, Khalil Tate is mortal. Arizona's breakout sensation was held to just 32 rushing yards in a blowout loss to Oregon. But he should get back on track in this one, as Arizona State's defense has reverted to "nothing special" after those two surprising October performances against Washington and Utah. The problem for Arizona, though, is Arizona State's offense has scored at least 37 in three straight. That's bad news for a defense allowing 38.5 points over its last eight games.
Prediction: Arizona State 42, Arizona 40
Solid Midafternoon Matchups
Appalachian State (6-4) at Georgia State (6-3), 2 p.m. ET
Last Meeting: Appalachian State beat Georgia State 17-3 last October
Georgia State has a nice-looking record, but its six wins have come against teams with a combined record of 14-50—none of which has four or more wins. And the Panthers barely squeaked out five of those victories. Against quality opponents (Troy and Penn State), GSU was blown out by a 90-10 margin. Appalachian State is somewhere in between those calibers of opponent, but the Mountaineers should be heavy favorites.
Prediction: Appalachian State 41, Georgia State 20
Southern Mississippi (7-4) at Marshall (7-4), 2:30 p.m. ET
Last Meeting: Southern Mississippi beat Marshall 24-14 last October
I don't know what to make of this game. Southern Miss has more impressive numbers, but the Golden Eagles had the benefit of racking up those stats against Charlotte, Rice, UTEP and Southern. Meanwhile, Marshall has lost three of its last four and is getting gradually worse on offense. I like Southern Miss by a slim margin, but this is a "stay-away" game.
Prediction: Southern Miss 28, Marshall 23
Iowa State (7-4) at Kansas State (6-5), 3:30 p.m. ET
Last Meeting: Kansas State beat Iowa State 31-26 last October
Neither of these teams is firing on all cylinders. In Iowa State's last four games, it has been outgained by a combined margin of 194 yards. But that's a heck of a lot better than Kansas State, which has been outgained by 1,079 yards in Big 12 play and has yet to win that battle against a conference foe. But the Wildcats found something special last week in the Skylar Thompson-to-Byron Pringle connection. Iowa State doesn't have that home run threat, and it doesn't have home-field advantage in this one.
Prediction: Kansas State 27, Iowa State 23
North Carolina (3-8) at North Carolina State (7-4), 3:30 p.m. ET
Last Meeting: NC State beat North Carolina 28-21 last November
In spite of all the injuries they've endured, the Tar Heels have been surprisingly competent lately, nearly beating Miami before winning at Pittsburgh and smoking Western Carolina. They should put up more of a fight against the Wolfpack than anyone would have expected a month ago. But North Carolina State is too talented on both sides of the ball to let this one slip away.
Prediction: North Carolina State 34, North Carolina 26
Michigan State (8-3) at Rutgers (4-7), 4 p.m. ET
Last Meeting: Michigan State beat Rutgers 49-0 last November
Rutgers has been a little better than in recent years, but the Scarlet Knights are still consistently getting their teeth kicked in by the Big Ten's best teams (and Indiana). In three games against Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan, Rutgers lost by a combined score of 126-20. Expect the fourth member of the Big Ten East's elite quartet to keep that trend going.
Prediction: Michigan State 37, Rutgers 7
Northwestern (8-3) at Illinois (2-9), 4 p.m. ET
Last Meeting: Northwestern beat Illinois 42-21 last November
Northwestern has won six in a row, and Illinois hasn't scored more than 24 in a game yet this season. Don't overthink this. And get ready to watch Justin Jackson run wild.
Prediction: Northwestern 42, Illinois 12
Other Midafternoon Games
Florida Atlantic (8-3) at Charlotte (1-10), 2 p.m. ET
Last Meeting: Charlotte beat Florida Atlantic 28-23 last October
Charlotte just gave up 363 rushing yards and five touchdowns in a 66-21 loss to Southern Miss. The 49ers have yet to hold an opponent below 119 rushing yards this season. And in the season finale, they host a Florida Atlantic team that has averaged 326.3 rushing yards since Week 3. This one's not for the squeamish.
Prediction: Florida Atlantic 70, Charlotte 13
Old Dominion (5-6) at Middle Tennessee (5-6), 3 p.m. ET
Last Meeting: MTSU beat Old Dominion 41-28 in 2014
Middle Tennessee has been much better on offense since getting QB Brent Stockstill back from injury, scoring at least 30 points in each of its last three games. Meanwhile, Old Dominion has won three in a row and played five straight games decided by seven points or fewer. This is a much better version of the Monarchs than the one we watched get annihilated by North Carolina and Virginia Tech in September. But MTSU's defense should be able to slow down their rushing attack, which means the Blue Raiders go to a bowl game.
Prediction: Middle Tennessee 27, Old Dominion 20
UNLV (5-6) at Nevada (2-9), 3 p.m. ET
Last Meeting: Nevada beat UNLV 45-10 last November
Neither of these teams is to be trusted because they both have atrocious defenses. But UNLV—which has rushed for at least 323 yards five times this season—should be able to take advantage of a Nevada front seven that hasn't been able to slow down anyone lately. Dual-threat QB Armani Rogers went for more than 400 yards last week against New Mexico, and he'll be a problem for which Nevada has no answer.
Prediction: UNLV 41, Nevada 34
Arkansas State (6-3) at Louisiana-Monroe (4-6), 3 p.m. ET
Last Meeting: Arkansas State beat Louisiana-Monroe 51-10 last October
Louisiana-Monroe averages more yards per game than any other team in the Sun Belt. It also gives up the most yards per game and hasn't held an opponent below 500 yards or 31 points since Oct. 7. Arkansas State is the drastically superior defensive team in this battle, and the Red Wolves are no slouches on offense, averaging 36.9 points per game.
Prediction: Arkansas State 45, Louisiana-Monroe 27
Temple (5-6) at Tulsa (2-9), 4 p.m. ET
Last Meeting: Temple beat Tulsa 35-24 in 2014
It's not easy to go 2-9 while averaging 425 yards of offense per game, but Tulsa has found a way by having the worst defense in the nation. The Golden Hurricane haven't been anywhere near as bad as they were in the first three weeks, but they have allowed at least 400 yards in every game and still get smoked every now and then. And Temple has been solid on offense for the past six weeks.
Prediction: Temple 42, Tulsa 34
Idaho (3-7) at New Mexico State (4-6), 4 p.m. ET
Last Meeting: Idaho beat New Mexico State 55-23 last October
New Mexico State has quietly had one of the top aerial attacks in the nation, averaging 354.9 passing yards per game. This should bode well for the Aggies because Idaho's secondary hasn't been that great. The Vandals gave up 880 yards through the air in back-to-back games against Missouri and Louisiana-Monroe last month.
Prediction: New Mexico State 29, Idaho 24
Vanderbilt (4-7) at Tennessee (4-7), 4 p.m. ET
Last Meeting: Vanderbilt beat Tennessee 45-34 last November
It's hard to believe this is an "other" game, but it's harder to justify any better for teams that are a combined 0-14 in SEC play. Tennessee's offense has been among the worst in the nation, and Vanderbilt's defense has been just horrendous in SEC play, setting a battle between the stoppable force and the movable object. Those units may play to a draw, but Vanderbilt's offense should be able to put in a fair amount of work against Tennessee's lackluster defense.
Prediction: Vanderbilt 35, Tennessee 19
Cream of the Evening Crop
Clemson (10-1) at South Carolina (8-3), 7:30 p.m. ET
Last Meeting: Clemson beat South Carolina 56-7 last November
If you're wondering why no one is talking about this 8-3 team from the SEC, South Carolina has lost every single game it has played against a team (currently) with a winning record since losing Deebo Samuel to a broken leg. The Gamecocks were competitive in those games against Kentucky, Texas A&M and Georgia, but the fact of the matter is they haven't beaten a decent team with their current roster.
Clemson, on the other hand, is No. 2 in the CFP rankings, largely because it already has six wins over bowl teams, including three on the road. Maybe three years ago we would have joked here about a possible #Clemsoning, but South Carolina doesn't appear to be good enough on either side of the ball to make a serious run at an upset.
Prediction: Clemson 36, South Carolina 17
Washington State (9-2) at Washington (9-2), 8 p.m. ET
Last Meeting: Washington beat Washington State 45-17 last November
Washington State has averaged just 2.71 yards per carry over its last three games and topped 100 rushing yards just three times all season. Against an outstanding Washington defense, that one-dimensional approach is going to be a problem. Even last year when the Cougars had a much better rushing attack, they were blown out by the Huskies.
The Cougars do have a drastically better defense than last season, and Washington's offense isn't nearly as potent this year. Combine those two factors and they should be able to keep the Huskies from reaching 45 points again. But in a lower-scoring game, it still feels like Washington should win by multiple possessions.
Prediction: Washington 28, Washington State 13
Notre Dame (9-2) at Stanford (8-3), 8 p.m. ET
Last Meeting: Stanford beat Notre Dame 17-10 last October
Save for the Iron Bowl, this ought to be the best game of the day. Josh Adams and Bryce Love are two of the best running backs in the nation, and each is going up against an OK-not-great rush defense. Neither of these secondaries is particularly strong, but neither is either quarterback. And these teams have a combined turnover margin of plus-19 on the season.
And if it boils down to special teams, that's a significant advantage for Stanford. In both kicks and punts returned and allowed, the Cardinal hold a clear edge over the Fighting Irish. Stanford also has the more reliable place kicker for field goals. That's enough for us to pick the Cardinal.
Prediction: Stanford 24, Notre Dame 21
Other Evening Games
Wyoming (7-4) at San Jose State (1-11), 5 p.m. ET
Last Meeting: San Jose State beat Wyoming 27-20 in 2014
Despite a likely first-round draft pick at QB (Josh Allen), Wyoming has one of the most anemic offenses in the country, averaging just 280.5 yards per game. And yet the Cowboys are drastically better than San Jose State, which allows more than 500 yards per game and has committed an astounding 40 turnovers—12 more than any other team in the country. The Spartans have lost 10 straight by a double-digit margin, and this will be No. 11.
Prediction: Wyoming 27, San Jose State 9
Georgia Southern (1-9) at Louisiana (5-5), 5 p.m. ET
Last Meeting: Louisiana beat Georgia Southern 33-26 last November
Georgia Southern finally got its first win of the season last weekend, and it gets its second here. Louisiana has given up 31 rushing touchdowns this season and allows more than 200 rushing yards per game. Against a team that has finally figured out its triple-option offense, that's going to be a major problem.
Prediction: Georgia Southern 31, Louisiana 24
Oregon State (1-10) at Oregon (6-5), 7 p.m. ET
Last Meeting: Oregon State beat Oregon 34-24 last November
With Justin Herbert back behind center, Oregon looked like a good team once again last week against Arizona. The Ducks are 5-1 in games he has started, and they have scored at least 35 points in each of those games. Meanwhile, Oregon State has given up at least 32 points in every game this season except for that one close call against Stanford sans Bryce Love. Oregon should win this by halftime.
Prediction: Oregon 56, Oregon State 14
Texas A&M (7-4) at LSU (8-3), 7:30 p.m. ET
Last Meeting: LSU beat Texas A&M 54-39 last November
Texas A&M's passing defense has been solid since that season opener against UCLA, but what really matters when facing LSU is rush defense. That hasn't been as great, with the Aggies allowing at least 200 rushing yards in six of their last eight games. Derrius Guice's year hasn't been anywhere near as good as advertised in preseason, but he is an ever-present threat to pop off for 150 yards and a couple of scores. He (and LSU's defense) makes the difference here.
Prediction: LSU 27, Texas A&M 19
UT San Antonio (6-4) at Louisiana Tech (5-6), 7:30 p.m. ET
Last Meeting: Louisiana Tech beat UTSA 63-35 in November
Most of the nation's top defenses in terms of yards allowed are the teams you would expect. Alabama, Wisconsin, Michigan, Washington and Georgia are in the top five. Clemson, Ohio State, Mississippi State and Auburn round out the top 10. But UTSA at No. 6 (287.2 yards per game) sticks out like a sore thumb. The Roadrunners have held each of their last five opponents to 315 total yards or fewer, including last week's 9-7 win over Marshall. The slower pace of this game will keep LT from getting into a rhythm—and from getting into a bowl game.
Prediction: UTSA 24, Louisiana Tech 20
Late Saturday Games
BYU (3-9) at Hawaii (3-8), 9 p.m. ET
Last Meeting: BYU beat Hawai'i 47-0 in 2012
Save for home wins over San Jose State, these teams have a combined record of 1-16 since the end of Week 2. BYU has one of the worst offenses in the country, and Hawaii has one of the worst defenses. Their other units aren't much better. I'll take Hawaii because the Warriors have scored at least 21 points in nine of 11 games this season. Whether BYU's offense will show up in any capacity is anyone's guess.
Prediction: Hawaii 26, BYU 21
Colorado (5-6) at Utah (5-6), 10 p.m. ET
Last Meeting: Colorado beat Utah 27-22 last November
How these teams fared against the best teams in the conference is an indication of what to expect in this game. Utah lost to Washington, Washington State, USC and Stanford by a combined margin of just 15 points. Colorado didn't play Stanford, but it lost to USC by 14, Washington by 27 and Washington State by 28. Factor in this being a home game for Utah and the Utes generally looking solid with Tyler Huntley re-established at QB, and they'll get the job done.
Prediction: Utah 31, Colorado 18
Utah State (6-5) at Air Force (4-7), 10:15 p.m. ET
Last Meeting: Air Force beat Utah State 27-20 last September
Air Force was unstoppable on offense in October, averaging 426.0 rushing yards per game for the month. But the Falcons haven't had more than 378 total yards in a game yet in November. And with Arion Worthman questionable to play against Utah State, that probably won't change. The Aggies should have little difficulty moving the ball against a defense allowing 6.62 yards per play on the season.
Prediction: Utah State 35, Air Force 20
Marquee Pre-Saturday Games
Ole Miss (5-6) at Mississippi State (8-3), 7:30 p.m. ET Thursday
Last Meeting: Mississippi State beat Ole Miss 55-20 last November
While silly NFL fans will try to fight through tryptophan-induced food comas for an awful game between the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins, we all know the actual Thanksgiving night pigskin game to watch is the Egg Bowl. Even without star QB Shea Patterson, Ole Miss has the slightly more prolific offense in this year's edition of the rivalry. However, there's no question Mississippi State has the better defense, and the Bulldogs just might run away with this thing when the Rebels discover they have no answer for Nick Fitzgerald.
Prediction: Mississippi State 37, Ole Miss 24
Navy (6-4) at Houston (6-4), Noon ET Friday
Last Meeting: Navy beat Houston 46-40 last October
Similar to the aforementioned Egg Bowl, Navy and Houston both have above-average offenses, but one team has a clear advantage on defense. Houston allows more yards per game but only because Navy bleeds so much clock on offense. On a per-play basis, the Cougars are much better than the Midshipmen. Most importantly, Houston has held its last four opponents to 92.3 rushing yards per game, so Ed Oliver and company should be able to force more Navy punts than we usually see.
Prediction: Houston 35, Navy 28
Miami (10-0) at Pittsburgh (4-7), Noon ET Friday
Last Meeting: Miami beat Pittsburgh 51-28 last November
Throw out the numbers with Miami. In the past seven weeks, the Hurricanes have blown out Notre Dame and Virginia Tech, but they inexplicably struggled with lesser teams such as North Carolina and Syracuse. Any other College Football Playoff contender would be expected to beat Pittsburgh senseless. (See: Oklahoma State, Penn State and North Carolina State). But a Miami team that loves to play down to the level of its competition? Who knows? We're taking Miami (and the points) because it is clearly the better team, but we don't feel great about it.
Prediction: Miami 41, Pittsburgh 14
South Florida (9-1) at UCF (10-0), 3:30 ET Friday
Last Meeting: South Florida beat UCF 48-31 last November
Before the season even began, most expected this game to be a major test for an undefeated team. We just thought South Florida would be the one with a goose egg in the loss column. These teams have combined to average 1,016.8 yards of total offense this season. That's not quite Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State—and these defenses are better than either the Sooners or Cowboys have shown—but let's just say no one is expecting a 14-10 type of affair.
So, which dual-threat quarterback gets the job done: UCF's McKenzie Milton or USF's Quinton Flowers? The smart money is on Milton. Flowers might have the higher ceiling because he's a bigger threat with his legs, but he also has the much lower floor, completing less than 42 percent of his pass attempts in three games already this season. Milton has been a rock and will make fewer mistakes.
Prediction: UCF 42, South Florida 30
Iowa (6-5) at Nebraska (4-7), 4 p.m. ET Friday
Last Meeting: Iowa beat Nebraska 40-10 last November
Iowa's 55-point explosion against Ohio State a few weeks ago only gets weirder with time. Ohio State has outscored its last two opponents 100-17, while Iowa's offense looks about as good as the NBA players who had their talent stolen in Space Jam. Fortunately for the Hawkeyes, Nebraska hasn't been any better, losing five of its last six games to snap a nine-year bowl streak. Tanner Lee will put up solid numbers at QB for the Cornhuskers, but he'll also throw at least one pick-six to give Iowa the win.
Prediction: Iowa 27, Nebraska 17
Texas Tech (5-6) at Texas (6-5), 8 p.m. ET Friday
Last Meeting: Texas beat Texas Tech 45-37 last November
Speaking of disappearing talent, where has Texas Tech's offense gone? After throwing for at least 290 yards in eight of the first nine games, the Red Raiders haven't even averaged 200 over the past two games. They only managed to score three points in the loss to TCU. And now they have to face a Texas team that has the second-best defense in the Big 12. After starting the season 4-1, they sure have crashed and burned.
Prediction: Texas 35, Texas Tech 24
Virginia Tech (8-3) at Virginia (6-5), 8 p.m. ET Friday
Last Meeting: Virginia Tech beat Virginia 52-10 last November
In case it wasn't clear from previous wins over Boise State and Georgia Tech, Virginia's upset bid against Miami reinforced the notion Bronco Mendenhall has turned this program around in a hurry. And snapping a 13-game losing streak against Virginia Tech will be a nice cherry on that sundae. The Hokies have been a mess lately, struggling on offense in losses to Miami and Georgia Tech and coming within one yard of a home loss to Pittsburgh.
Prediction: Virginia 27, Virginia Tech 21
California (5-6) at UCLA (5-6), 10:30 p.m. ET Friday
Last Meeting: California beat UCLA 36-10 last November
As one of the four games between teams with 5-6 records, this match was already going to be intriguing. Then UCLA fired Jim Mora and became the No. 1 team everyone is talking about. The Bruins still have Josh Rosen and Jordan Lasley, though, so they should be able to move the ball at will against the California D. The Golden Bears offense should also be able to do some damage against UCLA's awful defense, but it won't be enough to become bowl-eligible.
Prediction: UCLA 38, California 34
Other Pre-Saturday Games
Western Michigan (6-5) at Toledo (9-2), 11:30 a.m. ET Friday
Last Meeting: Western Michigan beat Toledo 55-35 last November
Hidden away in the obscurity of midweek #MACtion, Toledo has amassed at least 48 points and 600 yards in three of its last five games. The Rockets rank seventh in the nation in total yards per game and are the 12th-highest scoring team. And Western Michigan has been adequate. Tune in to find out if WMU's Jarvion Franklin can rush for 185 yards to reach 5,000 in his career, but expect Toledo to win somewhat comfortably.
Prediction: Toledo 42, Western Michigan 27
Baylor (1-10) at TCU (9-2), Noon ET Friday
Last Meeting: TCU beat Baylor 62-22 last November
While it would be fun to sort through all the tiebreaker scenarios for the second spot in the Big 12 championship game, there's just no chance TCU will lose at home to Baylor. The Bears offense no-showed last week against Iowa State and did the same a month ago against Texas—two of the three best defenses in the conference. On the road against the Horned Frogs, expect more of the same.
Prediction: TCU 28, Baylor 10
Northern Illinois (8-3) at Central Michigan (7-4), Noon ET Friday
Last Meeting: Central Michigan beat Northern Illinois 34-28 last October
After a rocky first half of the season, Central Michigan's offense has been firing on all cylinders, averaging 43.8 points over its last four games. Shane Morris has thrown for 11 touchdowns with just one interception during that time. But can the Chippewas keep it rolling against one of the two best teams in the MAC? They'll score a fair amount but not quite enough to beat the Huskies.
Prediction: Northern Illinois 34, Central Michigan 31
Ohio (8-3) at Buffalo (5-6), 1 p.m. ET Friday
Last Meeting: Ohio beat Buffalo 34-10 last November
If this game is anything like Buffalo's other contests against bowl-eligible teams, get your popcorn ready. The Bulls lost by four to Army, beat Florida Atlantic by three, lost by a field goal in seven overtimes to Western Michigan, lost by one to Northern Illinois and lost by one to Akron. That's an average final margin of 2.4 points. But the Bulls will be the victors by a slim margin in this one, because their passing attack (290.5 YPG, 22 TD, 6 INT) will get the best of Ohio's subpar secondary (258.8 YPG, 23 TD, 9 INT).
Prediction: Buffalo 35, Ohio 33
Missouri (6-5) at Arkansas (4-7), 2:30 p.m. ET Friday
Last Meeting: Missouri beat Arkansas 28-24 last November
Missouri's offense—which failed to score more than 14 points in three consecutive games in September—has become the most unstoppable force in college football. Drew Lock has thrown for at least three touchdowns in seven straight games, and the Tigers have averaged 52.0 points over their last five. Meanwhile, Arkansas has allowed 39.6 points per game over its last seven contests. The Bret Bielema era ends with a 50-burger.
Prediction: Missouri 51, Arkansas 23
New Mexico (3-8) at San Diego State (9-2), 3:30 p.m. ET Friday
Last Meeting: San Diego State beat New Mexico 24-14 in 2014
New Mexico has become almost exclusively a rushing offense, but San Diego State has held each of its last three opponents to 35 or fewer rushing yards. This thing is going to be a blowout, but watch it anyway because of Rashaad Penny. The nation's leader in rushing yards and one of the two best all-purpose players of the past five seasons needs more eyes on him. If he isn't at least a finalist for the Heisman, I'm going to lose my mind.
Prediction: San Diego State 42, New Mexico 13
Texas State (2-9) at Troy (8-2), 4 p.m. ET Friday
Last Meeting: Troy beat Texas State 40-7 last November
In four of five road games this season, Texas State has been held to 12 points or fewer. Troy has held every opponent to 24 points or fewer. So the only way Texas State wins this game is if it just about shuts out Troy, which simply isn't happening.
Prediction: Troy 35, Texas State 9
Western Kentucky (6-5) at Florida International (6-4), 7 p.m. ET Friday
Last Meeting: Western Kentucky beat Florida International 49-21 last November
Similar to Missouri, Western Kentucky is a completely different team from the one we saw in September. The Hilltoppers have averaged 399.0 passing yards over their last six games with 21 touchdowns through the air. Florida International is only averaging 375.0 total yards during that same time. And Western Kentucky's defense is the marginally better of the two.
Prediction: Western Kentucky 45, Florida International 27